I watched the whole weekend avidly to try and see who would be bringing massive rear wings. And I got a shock when I saw that actually, not as many teams as I was expecting did so. By massive rear wings I mean wings with a larger upper flap. Obviously, as we should know by now, a larger flap means a less-efficient DRS. At Monaco this isn’t important. A bigger upper flap produces more downforce. Downforce is key at Monaco. I was expecting Sauber, Lotus, Ferrari, Williams, the three youngest teams and McLaren to run the big rear wings. In fact only Sauber, Lotus, Caterham and Force India ran noticeably larger rear wings. Every team was running a slightly thicker main plane to boost downforce levels, with Sauber having the thickest.
It seems like there has also been more technical confusion over aspects of a certain car on the grid, the RB8 having a ‘hole’ in the floor, which shouldn’t have any kind of hole in it. It was found however to be within the regulations. The ‘hole’ looks like a hole from all the images taken of it, but apparently it isn’t, it’s a cut-out like Sauber and Ferrari are using. The outermost edges of the Sauber/Ferrari design makes a slot in the floor, not a hole. RedBulls seems to not have that gap, essentially making it a hole. The only way I can see such a design being legal is if the area where the slot should be (but looks solid) there is the tiniest of gaps, that cannot be seen in images. In this case, it does indeed make that area one whole part, with a gap to create a slot and not a hole.
Unusually, Mercedes were running yet more updates. New sidepods have been designed, and they actually did require new crash tests, such was the extent of the re-design. They now have a deeper undercut at the front, which gives a larger space between the sidepod and the turning vanes. This gives a more energised airflow to the rear of the car, boosting rear downforce. It certainly seemed to work for Schumacher, getting pole position. It’s very rare to see teams bringing brand new components to Monaco, due to the nature of the track.
Speaking of him, he retired from the race with what was reported on the official F1 website (www.formula1.com) as ‘tyre problems’ However I disagree. The car was tremendously slow on the straights, the engine didn’t seem to want to rev much higher than 14000-15000rpm, which is well below the power band of that Mercedes-Benz engine. He was still pretty fast in the corners however, which is what led me to suspect that it was a problem with the engine. I couldn’t get to hear it, but it didn’t sound as if it was misfiring, and without the data to look at, I’d hazard a guess at the car having a fuel pressure problem.
Caterham had a storming race with Heikki Kovalainen, having an almost race-long battle with Jenson Button. The Caterham was consistently on the pace of Button’s McLaren, and was in fact pulling away from him at one point of the race! It seems like Caterham have massive performance gains in low speed corners. In the race, Heikki was quite often less than a second per lap slower than the race leaders. It still looks to be a little unstable in the higher speed corners.
Speaking of higher speed corners, at Piscine (the swimming pool, for those who don’t speak French) Perez crashed in qualifying. I believe that he hit the barrier at the exit of one of the right hand corners previously in the lap, and this broke a track rod. At lower speeds such as the Nouvelle Chicane, it would’ve made very little difference to the steering of the car, however when the car was on two wheels through Piscine, that wheel couldn’t steer, so the car carried straight on into the barrier.
Also, Jean-Eric Vergne lost the back end at the exit of the tunnel in Q2, after this section had been re-surfaced to stop it happening! Button also had a moment when trying to overtake Heikki Kovalainen during the race, you could see it in the slow-motion replays! MY theory is that offline there is still a few large-enough bumps to unsettle the car in the braking phase. Vergne may have gone too wide, hit one of those bumps and lost the back end. Luckily it wasn’t as violent a collision as what happened to Sergio Perez last year in Q3 and he was unhurt. HRT were right with their predictions, Monaco did bring them much closer to the other teams, I was a little sceptical when they said that they would be challenging Marussia, so I have had to eat my words in that respect! It doesn’t take away what I said in part 5 of my technical series about what could be wrong with their car however.